So, this video came across my feed via the good ole social medias and I thought you all may enjoy it. It’s one of those “newbie meets sumo world” videos that’s brilliant and cringe at the same time. After all, it basically ends up being an ad for T-shirts. But it had me absolutely green with envy because it would be awesome to do practice “bouts” with Onosho…and red with second-hand embarrassment as they had no idea who Onosho is, or have the foggiest idea what butsukari is or what the hell was going on. I mean, it’s like not only do the foreigners not know what’s going on, it’s like their Japanese translator/guide has no idea, either. Hilarious. “Oh, you’re the coach, does that mean you used to do sumo, too?” Cue deadpan, “Yes…” The catharsis I felt watching the video was amazing since it presented a view from the perspective of the uninitiated and really made me want to ask my own dumb-ass questions, wondering if I’d get actual answers.
Off on a Tangent
Like, does the practice dohyo here feel different than at other heya, or at Kokugikan? We’ve seen during honbasho how the surface can seem unusually slippery or crumbly. Is that grip one of the multitude of variables that you calculate as a rikishi, in the way that a pitcher or basketball player would consider the grip on a ball, or a golfer would consider their grip on a club? Can you tell if the clay is sourced from a different place, or if too much (or too little) water was added? Or is the dohyo constructed and re-constructed and maintained with such care that the feel is uniform and such tactical considerations are irrelevant? These are the things that keep me up at night.
Bring it Back to Earth, Andy.
Ah, yes, sorry. Back to the video. At one point in the video the bloke named Steffan asks if they can stay the night. After checking with okamisan, they say, “sure.” This is a fantastic opportunity which our aloof tour guide uses to work out with the boys. For one I think Steffan made the right choice and I’m glad Onomatsu beya allowed it to happen. I’d actually prefer working out with the guys at the stable to another night at yet another pub as the rest of his crew did. But Dude, if you were really “one of the sumos,” you wouldn’t have had a room to yourself. You were a paying guest with one hell of an experience to share with us. You know that. Even Choijilsuren probably isn’t “one of them,” yet. He will be this fall, though, when he debuts at Makushita 15. After seeing the quality of the University debutants so far this year, that “University #1” boast is a big boast.
The fact that he’s interviewing a recruit while Onosho is there, calmly working out in the background…probably waiting for his turn to be interviewed…is absolutely hilarious. It makes me wonder if they did chat with him and that conversation ended up on the editing room floor (which is funny), or if Onosho wasn’t in the mood and enjoyed sitting back, watching the lower-rankers get attention from the camera (which is endearing), or if he’s still like, “Dude, I’m right here!” (Hahaha!) I mean, he’s even staring at you in the still image for this video while Choijilsuren is hiding in the back! My sides are splitting. Do you not wonder, at all, why everyone else is wearing black/grey mawashi and this one dude has a white one? I mean…I just can’t.
“I Would Have Done This Differently.”
We’re all watching this video and likely feeling the tug of being an “armchair producer.” If I had done this, I would have done this differently. Like when they’re eating chanko, I probably would have taken a bit more time to explain what was in this particular version, and beyond the meat and veggies, from the recipes I’ve see, they seem to be particularly proud of the stock and many of the more subtle flavors. Or, when interviewing each wrestler, like Nihonyanagi, I would have put his shikona on the screen. I would have asked each wrestler (if willing) to show me their name plate on the wall and ask if that’s the highest position they’ve reached so far in their career, and what is their goal for 2023. The name plates are nothing more than background in this video, certainly not a conversation starter.
Anyway, rather than feelings of “how dare they desecrate my beloved,” I came away from this engaged, laughing at parts, and I enjoyed it. It certainly gave me some reason to want to head out to Chiba and see if I could be lucky enough to watch keiko some day. But I would be very interested to hear from my fellow sumo fans, what would you have done? If you woke up in Chiba, told that you’re going to hand out at Onomatsu-beya for the day, what would you have done? Obviously, Andy would have chatted about inane stuff like, “how do you source your clay?” or “why don’t you have tawara, is it just a pain in the ass to replace all the time, or do you want to avoid injury?” Feel free to pose your own thoughts in the comments.